The SoCo Club, Columbia’s oldest alternative bar and club, is moving from its current location on East Nifong Boulevard to South Seventh Street in The District sometime in September.
SoCo has catered to Columbia's LGBTQ community since it opened its doors Dec. 30, 1999, featuring sassy drag shows, karaoke, trivia and other nightly events.
The club will close after hosting the Miss Gay Missouri North America International 2012 pageant on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.
The new venue, previously home to the steak and wine bar Forge and Vine, will feature multiple bars, a staged dance floor, a lounge area and an outdoor patio.
SoCo offers several themed nights each month, including a Ladies' Night, Underwear Parties and Industrial Night, a “fetish, leather and goth” experience. The new location will allow for more theme nights and additional events, SoCo owner and manager Marty Newman says.
“I think it’s time for a change,” he says. “I’ve been wanting to get downtown for quite a long time, and this space is available, and I think it’s going to be a good opportunity for us.”
A drawback of the Nifong location is its distance from most Columbia residents, making it a “destination bar,” Newman says.
Patrons travel several miles to go to SoCo, whereas bars and clubs in The District are often in walking distance from one another as well as from many residences.
Newman says some possible new features of the downtown location are monthly “game show nights,” where the drag queens host simulated TV game shows such as "Jeopardy," "Family Feud" and "The Price is Right."
The new venue has more rooms than the Nifong location, enabling SoCo to provide separate areas for drag shows and a dance floor. Each activity will have its own room, from gaming to lounging to performing.
The grand opening of the new location, tentatively set for Sept. 6, will feature a Black and White Ball, very similar to the New Year's Eve celebration the club held at its original opening more than 12 years ago.
“You’d think we were opening the Taj Mahal, people are being so warm about the opening,” Newman says.
Dustin Hampton, AKA Miranda L’Amour, has performed in drag for 10 years. L’Amour is one of the hosts of Cabaret Mondays at SoCo. Hampton says he’s very excited for the move downtown.
“Downtown is a little more vibrant and it will bring more access to people at the school,” he says. “It’s different for us, this is a very different space. It provides a lot of new opportunities.”
MU senior Amy Ricker regularly attends SoCo’s Thursday night Divas By Design drag show and dance club afterward. She says SoCo’s friendly vibe is what separates it from other Columbia bars.
“Certain bars downtown don’t have as much of a welcoming atmosphere as SoCo does,” she says.
Ricker is enthusiastic about the new location on Seventh Street.
“I live really close to campus and I think it’s going to be awesome, especially since it’s going to be a bigger place,” she says.
Ricker first learned of SoCo through her gay friends, but says the club is not just for the LGBTQ community. Everyone is welcome to the SoCo Club — fetish leather not required.